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Observational Research. Observational Research. Naturalistic Observation: Unobtrusive observation (avoid the Hawthorne Effect) Habituation Indirect measures Count the results of behavior, use a survey Disadvantages: time & money Advantages: ecological validity. Observational methods.

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Observational research1
Observational Research

  • Naturalistic Observation:

    • Unobtrusive observation (avoid the Hawthorne Effect)

      • Habituation

      • Indirect measures

        • Count the results of behavior, use a survey

    • Disadvantages: time & money

    • Advantages: ecological validity

Observational methods
Observational methods

  • EEthnography: researcher is immersed in the behavioral or social system being studied. Often used by anthropologists (skip pages 239-242)

    • Decide whether to be a participant or nonparticipant and overtly or covertly

    • Reactivity might be a problem if overt and ethical issues might surface if using covert method is used

    • Issues related to gaining access to a setting or group might present

Observational methods1
Observational Methods

  • Case histories require that you study a single or just a few cases

    • Case studies are particularly useful when the goals is behavioral change or when organizations are studied (e.g., learning/education/ and industrial/organizational settings)

Observational methods2
Observational Methods

  • Archival research involves studying existing records such as historical accounts, police records, published articles, or media

    • Requires a specific and refined hypothesis

    • Might consider how you will gain access to the data, the completeness of the record (do you need more than one source)

Observational methods3
Observational Methods

  • Content analysis: involves analyzing verbal written or spoken record for the occurrence of specific categories of events, items, or behavior.

    • Some overlap with archival research; some people define content analysis as pertaining specifically to language while others have a broader definition.

      • Might include conversations, books, movies, blogs, etc.

    • Successful content analyses require that researchers be objective and systematic, and have clear operational definition and/or coding schemes.

    • Consider issues related to sampling (avoid a biased sample) and observer bias (more than one coder)

Behavioral categories coding schemas
Behavioral Categories & Coding Schemas

  • Behavioral categories operationally define what behaviors are coded during the observation period

  • Clearly defined hypotheses

  • To develop categories you could make preliminary observations, conduct a lit review, or be very specific about your research goals and hypotheses

Quantifying behaviors
Quantifying Behaviors

  • Frequency method: record the number of times a behavior occurs

  • Duration method: record how long the behavior lasts.

  • Interval method: divide the observation period into time intervals, record the number of times the behavior occurs within each time interval (e.g., verbal exclusion during 2 minute time periods)

Recording single events vs behavioral sequences
Recording single events vs. behavioral sequences

  • Behavioral sequence can be thought of

    • ABC’s of the behavior: antecedent, behavior, consequence

    • Antecedent only or consequence only

Consider sampling or recording complex behaviors
Consider sampling or recording complex behaviors

  • Time sampling

  • Individual sampling

  • Event sampling: observe only one behavior

  • Record behaviors code later by watching video repeatedly


  • Interrater reliability: involves using multiple coders

    • Ensures that observers are accurate

    • Allows for replication

    • Allows coders to detect and correct any discrepancies

Methods of determining reliability
Methods of determining reliability

  • Percent agreement ((total # agreement/total # observation) x 100)); >70% is acceptable

  • Cohen’s Kappa κ = Po – Pc/1– Pc

    • Used for categorical or dichotomous data

    • where P o = observed proportion of actual agreement, and Pc = proportion of expected agreement

  • Pearson’s r

    • can be used with continuous data but it might produce a significant correlation if disagreements are numerous (as long as the magnitudes increase or decrease in a similar fashion)

  • Intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC)

    • (rI) should be used for continuous data. This method uses an ANOVA approach (means squares within and between subjects

Sources of bias
Sources of bias

  • Observer bias: when being aware of the hypothesis influences coding. Can use blind observers

  • Observers interpret rather than record behavior

Chi square
Chi square

  • A non parametric test

    • chi-square & fisher’s exact test is distribution free and relies only on frequencies

    • tests can only be used under certain circumstances

      • chi-squares: dichotomous or categorical data

      • fisher’s exact: 2 by 2 table or two dichotomous variables.

Chi square1

  • To calculate χ2 determine the frequency of each cell if no differences existed (frequency expected, (ƒe) and then compare this to the actual or observed frequencies (ƒo).

    • The greater the difference between expected and observed frequencies the more likely it is that differences exist.

  • χ2 = ∑ (ƒo – ƒe)2/ ƒe

  • Compare χ2 observed to χ2 critical in the χ2 sampling distribution

Chi square2

  • To report your findings:

  • χ2(df, N = #) = statistic value, p-value

  • χ2(1,N = 90) = 0.89, p = .35

  • Where df = (r-1) x (c-1)